Thoughts on Tracking

Our tracks and the tracks of the pursued are intricately woven into the land that we live on. We cannot escape from the mold that we have been placed into. Every creature leaves a unique trail in its path. The ability to decipher this trail and follow or learn about the one who left it is primarily determined by the skill of the tracker.

In 1991, my brother, Rob and I were hunting mule deer in Nevada. The hike to the hunting locating from the truck was about three miles over rugged terrain. We agreed that if we did not meet up by a half hour before sunset, we would return independently.

I was delayed while stalking a buck and did not reach our rendezvous point at the chosen time. Rob had already departed for the vehicles and the sun had nearly set before I began the hike back to our vehicles.

There were no visible trails in the shale and lava rock and the hike would be strictly crosscounty. Although open, the mountain had natural passages and it would not be unusual for the two of us would choose similar routes. The entire mountain was covered with trackless lava rock and shale. I gave little thought to my brother or the route that he may have taken.

In fact, at one point, I tried to climb a ridge that led me to an impasse. I was forced to back track and climbed down the open hillside to a shale-covered area. As I carefully navigated across the shale, lava rock and sage brush, I came to a patch of dirt only about three feet in diameter and when I placed my foot down, I realized I was stepping into a track left by Rob. Not only was I stepping in the same spot, but with the same foot and line of travel. It was over a mile from our rendezvous point to the dirt patch where we left our identical footprints. This did not  happen by chance.

This event sent me a powerful message. People are predictable. Most of us are not trained to figure out how to do the predicting. The same concept applies to all animals, including those we hunt.

Humans rely strongly on vision. Eyesight is the number one tool that hunters use to locate game. We have complete confidence in our vision and instantly interpret the images that our eyes perceive and never doubt the reliability of those images. However, our eyesight at one time or another has deceived us all. That does not deter us from continued confidence in the reliability of our eyes.

If we have complete understanding of the tracks that are all around us, the tracks would be just as reliable as our vision. Our ability to utilize tracks for our own benefit and understanding are only limited by our ability or lack of ability to read sign.

Much of this sign we do see. Some of it is quite obvious. However, most of us choose to deem it unreliable. We choose not to believe what is right in front of us. Why is this? There are several reasons.

Unlike the hunter-gatherers, we spend little time in the forest. The knowledge that creates a working understanding of tracks and sign has not been passion. Concepts that were accepted as truth by ancient man are now looked upon with doubt.

With some effort, a sliver of understanding is attainable. For most of us, we only have time to attain a small insight into the sign that is written all over the face of the earth. Even this trickle of knowledge is a source of wealth to the hunter. By developing skills seldom understood in the modern world, the hunter’s enjoyment of time in the woods can reach a new level.

3 thoughts on “Thoughts on Tracking

  1. I grew up being very handicapped in the fact that everybody saw any game long before I saw it. It has always been that way for me. I rely on hearing more than seeing. Once I hear something I can usually then see it.

    As for tracking, I used to think I was pretty good at it. I walked a mile down a steep road once then spent 4 hours hunting the hill across the valley. The bottom of the road was wet and had water running down it. When I came back there were fresh moose tracks in the road. A cow and a calf. I studied the tracks, they were in the wet road and there was clear water in the tacks, but none running through them. I figured they had walked up the road about 2 or 3 hours earlier. A bit farther up the road there were some fresh moose droppings. The were cold to the touch confirming my earlier annalysis. I stood up straight, walked at a good pace around a bend just ahead of. And there they were 50 feet in front of me. A cow moose with a new calf. So much for my “expert tracking ability”. I spent over an hour on that road with that cow and calf moose. It was too brushy to try and go a round her and she just wasn’t in any hurry.
    Dickie

  2. We use the reflective trail markers we sell on our site and have done so for over 10 years. We and friends use them for multiple purposes to be able to locate anything we wish in low light situations with very simple light sources.

    It makes a hunt in early morning or late into the afternoon that may take you deep into the wilderness of the local national forest or the plot of land behing the house a little more enjoyable and alot more secure knowing it will be easy to find your way back out.

  3. Dewey: I think you missed the point. I wasn’t worried about getting lost. The point is that we all have a signature gait and stride that leave a unique trail. In the case of my brother and I, our gait and stride were so similar that we walked the almost identical trail back to the vehicles.

    I have used trail markers similar to the ones you sell. They work, but I seldom have them handy when I need them.
    R

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